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We are all marginalised or privileged by the intersection of multiple aspects of our personal characteristics and identities such as class, religion, ethnicity, etc. Learn more about how acknowledging and understanding our own privilege helps us to be considerate about how we, and society in general, treat those that are different to us.



1. a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

The term ‘privilege’ is contentious.  It can feel like an accusation, or an insult, or a word used to make us feel bad about our achievements.  Addressing privilege is usually uncomfortable and we may experience a range of emotions from defensiveness and anger to guilt and defeat. As difficult as it may be, it is important that we recognise our own privilege as it will help us to be considerate about how we, and society in general, treat those that are different to us. 

Simply put, privilege is societally granted, unearned advantage given to some people and not others.  In general, this is based on systems, structures, norms and biases that impact on people based on factors such as race, gender, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexuality, class, body type, education, wealth, etc.   Acknowledging our privilege doesn't mean that life hasn’t been hard, or that we haven't earned our successes, nor does it only relate to unearned wealth and intangible benefits.    When we have privilege, we don’t notice it.  However, the absence of privilege can make life harder than it should be and can, in some instances, lead to oppression.

Privilege is intersectional which means that one person can experience both advantage and disadvantage, or even multiple advantages or disadvantages, based on different aspects of their identity or social capital.  For example, a person may experience racial privilege for being white but class oppression for being working class.  Having white privilege doesn’t mean that you haven’t suffered, or that life hasn’t been difficult, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve your success.  What it does mean is that the colour of your skin hasn’t been the cause of your hardship or suffering and it hasn’t impeded your success

View a short video from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine.  What is privilege? The coin analogy.


Examples of privilege:

  • You can say no when asked if you want a receipt at the supermarket.
  • You have never thought twice about getting into a lift with a man you don’t know.
  • You don’t worry about being stopped and searched by police.
  • You have never had someone touch your hair or body without asking.
  • You can generally walk alone at night without the fear of being raped or otherwise harmed.
  • You can go anywhere without having to consider how accessible your journey and destination will be.
  • You never have to hide your true sexual orientation.
  • You never have to justify why you are using a certain bathroom. 
Most importantly, you don’t have to expend any time or mental energy on a daily basis worrying about whether any of a multitude of potential obstacles may or may not arise.


 Image showing the wheel of privilege with power in the centre and marginalisation around the edge.  It shows how we are all marginalised or privileged by the intersection of aspects of our characteristics or identities and our proximity to power is influenced by the interaction of these characteristics.  Examples shown (with privileged characteristic listed first and marginalised characteristic listed last) are citizenship (citizen, documented, undocumented), skin colour (white, lighter shades, dark), formal education (higher education, post-16 education, pre-16 school leaver), ability (able-bodied, some disability, significant disability), sexuality (heterosexual, gay man, lesbian/bisexual/pansexual/asexual), neurodiversity (neurotypical, neuroatypical, significant neurodivergence), mental health (robust, mostly stable, vulnerable), body size (slim, average, large), housing (property owner, sheltered or renting, homeless), wealth (comfortable, struggling, poverty), language (English, learned English, non-English monolingual), and gender (cisgender man, cisgender woman, trans or non-binary).